Public engagement takes many forms at Memorial University.
For the Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Michael Wahl (M.Sc.Kin.’06, PhD’17), one of those forms is a television program taking viewers across the province, highlighting research done at Memorial University along the way.
The WAHL (wellness and healthy lifestyle) Show features world-class health research, entertainment and Newfoundland and Labrador’s outdoor scenery.
The goal? To connect with audiences in meaningful ways that improve health literacy.
The WAHL Show is the culmination of one of his long-time goals, bringing together the Memorial alumnus’ interests and previous experience in broadcasting, his connections with health-care professionals across the province and his experiences in academia.
“The fantastic wealth of health knowledge in the Faculty of Medicine is a resource that should be shared with the public, especially in a province burdened with significant health-care challenges,” said Dr. Wahl, who is an assistant professor in the Division of BioMedical Sciences at the faculty.
The 12 episodes of the show’s first season, currently airing on NTV, feature several Memorial researchers sharing their expertise.
Fostering public engagement
The WAHL Show expands Dr. Wahl’s community engagement work beyond his VOCM radio show and podcast, he says, bringing Memorial University research to a wider audience, building public engagement and increasing health literacy.
The province’s below-average health indicators are evidence of the need for that focus on health literacy, Dr. Wahl says.
Newfoundland and Labrador has higher-than-average rates of various conditions and diseases.
The province also has an aging population and is dealing with the effects of climate change.
While the topics discussed are serious, the team wanted them to be engaging, too.
“We set out to create a TV series that was educational, informative and entertaining,” Dr. Wahl said of the show’s team, which includes Braeden King, director, and James MacKinnon, director of photography.
Dr. Wahl also wants to move away from guilt about what isn’t being done to improve our health.
“We sought to celebrate many of the things inherent to our province that are good for our health, that are readily available regardless of socio-economic status, and that were already engrained in our culture.”
Those things include laugher, music, nature and traditional foods.
The show’s first season covers a wide variety of health-related topics.
The show’s second episode focuses on how music affects mental health, featuring Dr. Benjamin Zendel, Canada Research Chair in Aging and Auditory Neuroscience and assistant professor in the Division of Community Health and Humanities in the Faculty of Medicine.
Other Memorial researchers featured in the first season are Drs. Janna Andronowski, assistant professor of clinical anatomy in the Division of BioMedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, and Chandra Kavanagh, director of Bounce Health Innovation.
“The information and research shared on The WAHL Show will increase knowledge and improve health literacy in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Margaret Steele, dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “This is an opportunity to share the knowledge of our medical researchers and health practitioners through community outreach.”
Second season planned
A few episodes into the first season, Dr. Wahl says he is happy with feedback so far, and the support from NTV, the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, Memorial University, their sponsors and the show’s guests.
Work has begun on the second season, with a topic of “health explored.”
“We will focus on things that may not have arrived on our shores yet, but would benefit us,” he said
Topics include wellness practices such as Japan’s forest bathing or Bhutan’s gross domestic happiness index.
The second season will also look at emerging areas of wellness in Newfoundland and Labrador. That includes research happening at Memorial University on topics like cannabis and sleep.
“We will have a broad scope of topics that will resonate with our audience and open their minds to different health habits.”